Gabrielle Petersen thought her self-worth revolved around what she did on a rugby field.
She is seen as a Wallaroo-in-waiting but her mentality made her feel like she had a point to prove when she arrived in Goulburn for an ACT Brumbies Super W trial last February.
But then her world turned upside down when she was caught in a tackle and her body twisted in a way it was never built to.
"At first I did my [medial collateral ligament] and they thought my [anterior cruciate ligament] was alright," Petersen said.
"Come 12 weeks after wearing a brace, I got another scan and they said my ACL was stretched - not completely torn - but stretched too much. It was just as good as torn. I had to go under the knife in the end."
Just like that, Petersen was due for a second knee reconstruction. It was her second in three years after she ruptured her ACL playing netball as a 16-year-old.
But it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the versatile back.
"Like everyone says, it's a bit of a mixed bag of emotions. At the start you don't believe it, and then you start to question the entire healthcare system and if they're right or if they're wrong, then you come to accept it," Petersen said.
"You go into the pattern in all stages of rehab when you progress a little bit and you're feeling really good, but then you're still not technically cleared to go into the really physical stuff that you thought you would be able to, so there's lots of denial, feeling proud of yourself, denial and then the reward.
"It stung a lot purely because at the time I associated a lot of my self-worth with the contribution I make on the field. This rehab has given me the opportunity to take things a little bit slower and get my mental side right.
"Now I see this as an opportunity to get better and I can contribute to the team in more ways than on the field."
Petersen's partner is emerging Brumbies lock Tom Hooper. His impact cannot be understated. She looks at him and sees an anchor, a comforter and a motivator.
He creates an environment in which they push each other to thrive - one she has carried into pre-season training with the Brumbies despite being limited in what she can do.
Petersen's will to help the Brumbies program goes some way to explaining why coach Dan Hawke has been so desperate to have her around the group during pre-season.
Hawke will name a 31-player squad for the 2022 Super W season, but the Brumbies will have a handful of players waiting in the wings both for development and injury cover.
"I can't wait until [Petersen] gets back on the field, she does have a massive future in the game. Definitely a future Wallaroo-in-waiting," Hawke said.
"Since her transition from netball 18 months ago to rugby, she is a tremendous athlete and an absolute professional in terms of the way she is treating her recovery."
MORE CANBERRA SPORT:
The 19-year-old is due to return to the park in April. She says she feels fitter, faster and stronger than she did before the injury.
Now she is counting down the days until she can pull on a Brumbies jersey.
"I reckon I could shave a few weeks off, even months off, but in their eyes they're good for me to come in at the back end of the season. I'm going to go away for the holidays, come back in the new year, show them my big quads and see what they have to say," Petersen grinned.
"I'm progressing in leaps and bounds with them and then just being exposed to a little bit of footy here. When I am exposed here I feel so comfortable, and the drills I do aren't limiting or tough. They're challenging mentally, but physically the rehab has primed me for what's to come."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: